Today, the University of the West Indies is a full-blown, degree granting institution with seven faculties across four campuses and some 50,000 students! Fifty-six years ago, on July 1, 1962, it blossomed out of its initial incarnation as the University College of the West Indies (UCWI), which had been chartered in 1948/49, the same year it took its first batch of 33 pioneering medical students from across the Caribbean region. The UCWI granted its degrees through a special association with the University of London.
Moves towards transcending that special relationship were pushed forward in June 1957 when the university’s member governments agreed to the setting up of a special committee to look, among other things, at the relationship with the University of London. The UCWI was then seen as an important resource for the West Indies Federation which formally existed between 1958-1962.
A December 1961 referendum spelled the end of the Federation. Previously, in June 1961, the UCWI had approved a petition to the British crown for the granting of a Royal Charter to the University of the West Indies. This new Charter was approved on April 2, 1962; and on June 29, 1962, the Council of the UCWI agreed to its incorporation into the newly Chartered University of the West Indies with effect on July 1.
The College had graduated 300 BAs, 202 BSCs, 163 doctors with the Bachelors of Medicine & Surgery; and it had six faculties including two (in agriculture and engineering) at the new St Augustine faculty in Trinidad & Tobago.
That was then.